Mid­dle Earth movie magic

There’s plenty for fans of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hob­bit movies to see and do in the Waikato.

Go Travel New Zealand - - Waikato -

IIf the Shire is at the heart of Mid­dle Earth, then the Hamil­ton and Waikato re­gion is at the heart of the Shire. When scout­ing around for lo­ca­tions for his epic three movie adap­ta­tion of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hob­bit, Kiwi di­rec­tor Peter Jackson found just what he was look­ing for in the green rolling pad­docks, rugged lime­stone out­crops and un­der­ground cav­erns of the Hamil­ton and Waikato re­gion. The bu­colic set­ting for the Shire, home of the Hob­bits, in­clud­ing Bag End and The Party Tree stand­ing ma­jes­ti­cally over the lake, was nes­tled on a sheep farm near the Waikato town of Mata­mata, just wait­ing for Sir Peter Jackson’s mag­i­cal di­rec­tor’s touch. My group of friends had all agreed on a Mid­dle Earth themed get­away, and af­ter spend­ing the day ex­plor­ing Hamil­ton City

to­wards what was the high­light of the tour for me: Bag End, home to Bilbo and Frodo Bag­gins. The green door of Bag End sits at the top of the hill, which, as our guide ex­plains, sig­ni­fies promi­nence amongst the hob­bit com­mu­nity. Af­ter cross­ing the party field and ad­mir­ing the large Party Tree, we make our way past the lake and over the dou­ble-arched bridge to The Green Dragon Inn. We quickly grab a de­li­cious South­far­thing drink - “the only brew for the brave and true” - and wan­der around out­side the pub, tak­ing in the magic of this fas­ci­nat­ing place. Be­fore we know it, it’s time for our feast, and it re­ally is a feast. There are two gi­ant ta­bles laden with all types of food, from roast veg­eta­bles and chicken to ham hocks and more. We sit down and eat till our heart’s con­tent – not for­get­ting to leave room for dessert, of course. It was dur­ing din­ner that we were also for­tu­nate enough to meet the only res­i­dent at Hob­biton movie set, Pick­les the cat, who was all too happy to ac­cept some pats as he basked in the warmth of the fire. Af­ter din­ner, we grabbed a lantern and fol­lowed our guide back through the movie set along a route not usu­ally taken by day­time vis­i­tors. With a starry sky above us and the hob­bit holes lit up like the res­i­dents had just re­turned home, we were once again re­minded of how real this place ap­pears. Af­ter a rest­ful night at Novo­tel Tainui Hamil­ton in Hamil­ton City, we were up early the next morn­ing to make our way to the world fa­mous Wait­omo Caves. Our group split up with the more ad­ven­tur­ous among us opt­ing for a black wa­ter raft­ing tour, while the rest of us chose to do a combo of the Wait­omo Glow­worm Caves and Ruakuri Cave, where cave sounds were also recorded for the films. Af­ter a lunch, we headed to the quaint town of Pio­pio for our next Mid­dle Earth stop, Hairy Feet Wait­omo. The tow­er­ing lime­stone out­crops were quickly recog­nised as the back­drop for Troll­shaw For­est as seen in The Hob­bit: An Un­ex­pected Jour­ney. Our lovely guide Suzie took us around her fam­ily’s farm, re­gal­ing us with sto­ries of what life was like when film­ing for the movies was in full swing and show­ing us lo­ca­tions such as where Bilbo re­ceived ‘Sting’ and more. Af­ter a week­end of dis­cov­er­ing film lo­ca­tions that we all agree sur­passed our ex­pec­ta­tions, we quickly start plan­ning our next visit to the Waikato Re­gion, with surf­ing, food and cy­cling themed week­ends all up for de­bate.

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